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4 Key Stats to Monitor the Health of Your Blog

As a blogger spare time can be pretty hard to come by. Your focus, as it should be, is about creating great content and engaging with your community — leaving little capacity for the ‘other’ things that need to be done. Add the fact that a lot of us prefer to leave the numbers and bean counting to the accountants and statisticians, it’s no surprise that a lot of the bloggers I speak with have little or no idea about the statistical health of their blog.

Personally, I’ve always been a bit of a numbers guy. As the son of a maths teacher its been built into how I think. But I even as a bit of a number nerd, I don’t immerse myself in statistically breaking down all the facts and figures of a blog unless I have to. I instead identify key metrics that I measure and track over time allowing me to have  indicators that tell me if I need to dig any deeper or not.

If they’re all pointing in the right direction, it allows me  to focus on the fun things knowing everything is in good health.

You might have slightly different indicators on your own blog buy here’s my go to 4 measures I use for all the blogs I’m involved with:

1. Traffic

I’m looking here simply at unique visitors, visitors and page views. You can track and easily access the stats using Google Analytics. If all three are pointing in the right direction (increasing) then things are good. If traffic is dropping or even flat then it’s something I need to focus on.

2. Costs

The barriers to entry for blogging are extremely low, a couple of bucks and you’re up and going. However as your blog grows, costs can blow out pretty quickly. Keeping track of what you’re spending on your blog (hosting, premium services, stock images) will ensure that you can keep it under control. One cost I always measure that most don’t is my own time. I keep track of my hours and allocate a real hourly rate, as though I was a paid employee. Your investment in yourself can be pretty scary when you start tracking it.

3. Revenue

Even with small revenue it’s important to make sure it’s pointing in the right direction — increasing. I like to split revenue down into each stream of income. Affiliate, product sales, advertising and ensure that success in one area is not overshadowing poor performance in another.

4. Subscribers

Subscribers are a collection of your email subscribers, your social media following, your RSS subscribers or anyone that has connected to you in some way. Like revenue, I like to track each of these subscriber channels independently.

How I’m tracking.

Some of the metrics, in particular revenue, I’ll track daily. Most I’ll update and review once a month. It’s all done in a very simple spreadsheet, but most important of all it’s tracked over time allowing for comparison of the result. It takes less than an hour in total per month to do.

What I’m looking for.

When I’m looking through these 4 key metrics, I’m using them as traffic light indicators. If traffic is up, green light & onwards we go, if it’s flat, amber light & something to worry about if the trend continues, if it’s down, red light — time to dig a little deeper so as to understand why.

If everything is green, well you’re just awesome and I’m envious, but for the rest of us using key indicators, you can be confident that the little extra time you have, is spent where it’s most needed.

For those that do – I’d love to hear how you’re measuring the health of your own blog.

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Comments

  1. Francesca says:

    Simple, clear, and doable.
    Thanks for a post that a newer blogger can actually make use of!
    ~Francesca

  2. One of the things I did from the beginning of my current project, which you suggest, was to keep a timesheet. I almost wish I hadn’t! When I multiply the total hours times the hourly rate I charge my clients as a freelancer, the amount of sweat equity I have in this just to get to launch is scary.

  3. I’d like to add that monitoring these can be ADDICTING. You’ll check these every 20 minutes to watch the traffic (or lack thereof) move. You’re going to keep coming back to them because you want to know others like what you have, but this can be detrimental. The moment your traffic slows down, it’s going to eat at you and you’re going to hate yourself. Then you’ll refresh and look at it again.

    This happened to me and I limit myself to checking my RSS readers, subscriber count, newsletter opens, Google Analytics, Jetpack stats, and any other measurements only once a week. You’ll be sane and you’ll feel better than you did checking it constantly.

    Of course, if there is a valid reason to check then please do so. Just don’t become obsessed.

  4. Brian says:

    Thanks for this info Shayne!
    I’m a numbers guy as well, so I’ll enjoy putting together spreadsheets to track the above metrics.
    Since I’m a new blogger, I don’t have much to track yet other than traffic, but this gives me a better understanding of what to target.

  5. Megan says:

    Like your post. I don’t spend enough time analyzing data on my sites. My parents are musicians not math teachers, so data analysis drives me crazy! However, I should try to pay more attention so I know where I need to spend my time.

  6. Good tips Shayne.

    My traffic isn’t increasing anymore, what do you recommend?

    • Shayne says:

      That’s pretty hard to answer in a comment. I would say keep listing to what Darren says he’ll help you find ways.

  7. Hi Shayne,

    I like checking my metrics infrequently due to the addiction noted above. I formerly checked metrics daily, sometimes multiple times daily. Unhealthy obsession here, because you grow a stronger and stronger attachment to outcomes. This is dangerous. You panic and desperately jump from strategy to strategy because you feel as if everything you do is not working.

    I might check metrics once weekly. Keeping your head in the sand at least for a while each week helps you focus on what matters: creating practical, targeted content and developing friendships with like-minded bloggers. Stay true to each practice, be patient and eventually you can detach a bit more from outcomes.

    Take the time to address this wicked attachment. I admit, I got a little full of myself after I saw 2600 visit days on my cash gifting blog. The attachment grew stronger, and stronger. Then I saw a rapid down turn day by day, began to panic, and felt depressed, going into my blogging shell.

    Now I focus on creating and connecting. I check metrics once weekly, if that, because I know as long as I use tried and true practices, and enjoy my blogging activities, good things continue to happen for me. If I become more strongly attached to outcomes bad things usually happen for me.

    Thanks for sharing your keen insight Shayne.

    Ryan

  8. Charles says:

    Traffic is an important metric to check regularly. I’ve been keeping notes of traffic, especially unique and returning visitors to see how my blog is performing.

  9. marty says:

    I love checking my stats but I have told that yes it is addicting and that the more mature your site gets the less you check it to get a better perspective of the stats I am not sure if thats true

  10. Sharon says:

    I’m participating in a blogging challenge and there’s been a spike to my traffic and subscription rate has gone up too. But I wanted to know how that translated to sales and decided to check last night. I’d have to say that the blog is doing really well. Glad you put up this post, today. I’ll remember to check more often, but still stay away from the ‘quicksand.’ :)

  11. Abhishek says:

    I agree it is also helpful to know if one needs to invest in further SEO or not. If a blog is giving good results then I believe there is no need to invest further in SEO and other things and then concentrate only on quality content.

  12. great post, it is more informative, thanks for sharing

  13. I like to make notes on days that I use a different plugin or change something about my site – if it’s making things worse, I change back. If it’s improving traffic, subscribers, or visits, then it’s something I want to continue and I’m ready to look at the next item on my to-do list. I think this process also helps me to avoid doing too many drastic changes at once. One other metric I look at and track is page load speed. I used to have a very, very slow loading site and my mentor mentioned I was probably losing traffic because of it. These can be very addicting, so I limit my time.

    • Shayne says:

      Great comment on the notes Joanna. I use the notes system in Analytics for that exact purpose. This way, that history is transferable to someone else.

  14. Kevin Martin says:

    These are four good, simple metrics to monitor the health of one’s blog. Thank you for this post, Shayne.

  15. Sara says:

    My traffic correlates almost directly with wedding season- its slow during late fall- Christmas, picks up during engagement season, booms during summer wedding season, and drops off in Aug- Oct. Also, I’m addicted to my Alexa.com rank- I check everyday and I REALLY need to stop!

  16. Rob says:

    Do you manually check each service/website and manually enter the data for traffic, revenue, costs, subscriptions? Or do you have a way to at least partially automate it?

    • Shayne says:

      I do yes, for my monthly report. However it only takes around 10 minutes per site. I’ll eyeball the stats I’m checking more often rather than collate.

  17. Hi Shayne,

    I am measuring the health of my blog is by checking its main keyword ranking in Top 10 Google. The better in the position, the more traffics the blog get. Just my two cents.

  18. Beth Hewitt says:

    It is important to set up your analytics and track stats as soon as you start. It is a great way to get the full picture about the direction you are travelling. I wouldn’t pay for stock photos when you are starting out, there are lots of free resources you can use so long as acknowledge the image creator.

    I always get clients to think about where they can make money quickly with their blogging. Can they do coaching around their niche, can they provide products to people in their niche? That way it doesnt matter so much on how much traffic they get, but who good they know their market and can make money from it.

    Beth :)

  19. Anshu says:

    Good post Shayne. You just about summed up all the statistics one should really care about. However every once in a while one has to focus on a subset of these numbers. I will give my own example. My blog gets most of its traffic via features on other sites. I didn’t get much traffic from search engines. So I started working on SEO and recording my daily search traffic. I kept on optimizing for about a month and recording the search numbers. Then something came up and I got sidetracked. That was an year ago, this year I decided to work on SEO again and pulled up search traffic from my blog’s analytics page. I was surprised to see that my search traffic almost doubled in a particular month and stayed there ever since. When I compared it to my notes earlier, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was right after I implemented SEO changes a year ago. So this year, I worked on more SEO related enhancements with a renewed energy.
    I’m already beginning to see the difference and it seems like the history will repeat itself this time around.

  20. Jacob says:

    Excellent blog . Keep writing more and more. I like the stats to track your blog in terms of traffic as well as revenue.Keep it up……

  21. Blogron says:

    The ups and downs in the traffic is also responsible for how much you can earn. This is kind of a circle. You invest more time and money in your blog- then you can earn more from it. Obviously if earning is the primary goal from your blog.

  22. Some people say that checking stats often should be avoided because it affects your time that should be allocated in important things. But in my experience there is a need to monitor your stats at least daily because even a reliable hosting and some expensive private servers can have trouble from time to time. Sometimes there is a need to reboot the server to fix things or to contact the hosting technical support to address the issue.

  23. Danny says:

    Some simple yet very useful advice, Shayne.

    I cannot fault any of those essentials you mention, that need to be on the upper to ensure a healthy site.

    It would probably be good to set goals and time frames to measure progress, and to put in to place changes where needed.

    Though, it’s helpful to give new ideas time to work before changing tact….

  24. Mike says:

    I personally find it’s easiest to check the stats in the morning and then go about my day. I agree that stats are important towards being able to achieve certain goals that we might have for our blogs but we can’t let them control us. Sometimes results can be slow in the making. Other times, results are achieved in a shorter time frame. In my opinion, as long as there is a positive upward slope towards the majority of the stats that you have mentioned, then one is on the right track.

  25. I also think looking at statistics such as bounce rate and reader engagement (such as how often posts are shared) is important as it shows how much people really like your articles, how good of quality they are. If you get a lot of visits, but nobody ever comes back, is your website really that successful? Maybe, but you’re better off if people like your articles enough to come back.

  26. One of the things I did from the beginning of my current project, which you suggest, was to keep a time sheet. I almost wish I hadn’t! When I multiply the total hours times the hourly rate I charge my clients as a freelancer, the amount of sweat equity I have in this just to get to launch is scary.

  27. Ola Adeniyi says:

    Great post Shayne. As a new blogger, ive found myself falling prey to the ‘checking the stats daily’ syndrome and spending hours on end wondering if im doing things the right way. So really good advice, thanks.

  28. Sarah says:

    Watching stats can be incredibly addictive. I used to be stats obsessed checking several hours a day but I try now to check in on a Wednesday, Friday and a Sunday. I can normally do something about a downturn in traffic at those times that should still see me get to my weekly traffic target.

    I check RSS and social media followers once a month as they haven’t decreased yet but obviously if they started to I would check at a more frequent time.

    I find using a speadsheet is the best way to keep my stats all in check.

    Thanks for the reminders :)